How to Keep Your Pond Pump from Getting Clogged: Tips and Tricks

It’s a pain when your pond pump constantly gets clogged with debris. In this post, I’ll share some of the strategies I use to reduce how often my pond pumps need to be cleaned.

I also made a video on the topic, if you prefer you can watch that.

Increasing Surface Area

The simplest way to reduce the frequency of cleaning your pump is by increasing the surface area around the pump. Most pond pumps come with protective screens around the inlet to protect the impeller from getting clogged and burning out.

These screens allow smaller particles to pass through while stopping larger ones. However, because the pump runs 24/7, the screen eventually gets clogged with muck, diminishing the flow rate and possibly starving the pump of water.

By increasing the surface area around the pump’s inlet, we can prolong the time between cleanings. Here are a few methods I use:

For Small Ponds

For ponds, I use a simple plant pot. I cover the holes with coarse filter sponge and cut out a round lid of filter sponge, making a small hole for the pipe outlet that goes to the filter.

I keep the cage on the pump and place the whole pump in the plant pot. This increases the surface area that stops debris from entering the pump.

Using this method I can go 12 months, or more without needing the sponges or pump cleaned, and it also keeps the fish fry safe.

You can find links to the sponges I like to use, on my helpful products page.

Here’s a video showing how I constructed one of my small container ponds with a bog filter, but in the video I show the method of placing the pump in the pot, running the plumbing through the sponge and plugging the holes in the pot.

Skimmers For Medium Sized Ponds

For medium-sized ponds, I prefer using a skimmer. Skimmers help keep the surface free of debris and protect the pump. You can make your own skimmer or buy one.

Skimmers draw water from the surface of the pond, so to start with this water is much cleaner. There is still a sponge that covers the pump, again to help increase the surface area around the protective cage.

When I make my own, I use a 20-litre bucket with a coarse filter sponge over the top as a skimmer. Here’s an article I wrote on how that’s constructed- DIY pond skimmer, there’s also an accompanying video.

Professional skimmers like the Aquascape skimmer (Amazon link) have a basket that collects large debris and a filter sponge over the pump.

This setup creates a much greater surface area for capturing debris than just the standard pump cage. I have one aquascape pond that has a professional skimmer. It’s a great bit of kit just a bit expensive.

Intake Bays for Larger Ponds

For larger ponds, like my dream pond, I use an intake bay, which is essentially a super-sized skimmer. The intake bay on my dream pond has multiple pumps running the bog filters, streams, and circulation jets.

The water is forced to move down through rocks and pebbles before reaching the pumps, separating larger particles while allowing smaller ones to pass through to the filters.

This setup increases the surface area that collects debris. I recently cleaned the pumps in my intake bay after two years. It was still pretty clean!

Intake bays can easily be constructed by DIY’ers. I have an article on how to construct them and there’s also an accompanying video.

Other Options

In my dream pond, I also have a pump inside an olive barrel that draws water from the bottom of the pond.

I wrapped a filter sponge around the pump cage like a burrito to capture finer sediment and protect baby fish. This setup is easy to remove and clean and can go for extended periods without maintenance.

You can also buy filter sponges or mesh screens (Amazon link) that will screw over the intake to the pump. If you buy one that screws in make sure it is compatible with your pump.

Solid Handling Pumps

I don’t place my pumps directly on the bottom of the pond because they get clogged quicker, and I believe some muck at the bottom of the pond is beneficial.

Additionally, if a pipe leaks or bursts, I don’t want the entire pond to be pumped dry. If you have a pond with a lot of muck, you should consider using a solids handling pump (Amazon link), at least for a short period of time.

These pumps allow larger particles to pass through and need a mechanical filter to capture the sediment before it’s returned to the pond.

I hope you found these tips helpful. Thanks for reading, happy ponding. See ya!


G'day, I'm Kev. My pond and water garden started with simple aquariums. I have created many ponds and water gardens around our home: Fish ponds, Aquaponic systems, grey-water wetlands and bog filters. My favourite topic is water filtration.

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